News: Without Walls Blueprint scheme offers vital support to artists’ research and development for outdoor work

Comprehensive research and development is vital for companies looking to make new work; Without Walls’ Blueprint scheme is designed to support R&D costs of new outdoor touring work. It celebrates innovation and looks to expand the possibilities of what outdoor arts can be.

Without Walls have worked with all their partners to make huge advances in the staging of outdoor arts across the UK and their Blueprint scheme is one such endeavour. 11 artists and companies have been selected as part of Blueprint, enabling them to develop new approaches to making work.

The final selection sees many established companies looking to continue to develop new approaches to their work and take exciting risks in the Outdoor sector. This year saw 116 applications to the scheme showing the increased demand for work that can exist safely outdoors in a post-Covid landscape. The artists and companies selected this year are all keen to develop projects that show experimentation and they are Air Giants, Akademi, China Plate Theatre, Daryl Beeton Productions and Mimbre, Fatt Projects, Francesca Baglione/Miss High Leg Kick, Lucy Bradley, Mark Murphy, Theatre Témoin, Thingumajig Theatre and Unlimited Theatre and Upswing.

Climate change is a pertinent issue that has become more pressing throughout the Covid pandemic. In Akademi’s Pravaas, the company are developing a unique show using South Asian dance around the theme of migration triggered by climate change. Also exploring climate change are Theatre Témoin who will utilise their signature style of movement, comedy and acrobatics in Flood – a new, interactive outdoor spectacle, highlighting the health of the world’s ocean through the eyes of Britain’s coastal communities. New family opera The Promise, created by Nicola Davies, Daniel Saleeb, Lucy Bradley, Ruth Paton and Sascha Gilmour, asks its audience to plant actual seeds and make a promise to protect the environment.

The outdoors enables work to tour the country in a way a traditional indoor space cannot facilitate. A la Puppet Carte from Thingumajig Theatre is a collection of puppet shows built onto electric cargo bikes. Big Gay Disco Bike is a mobile queer disco on a bike. Hosted and performed by drag artist & vocalist Fatt Butcher (Adam Carver), it will empower local communities to create their own dancefloors, celebrate themselves and connect in a post Covid world.

From the small scale to the large scale, A Thousand Stories High from award-winning Mark Murphy combines cinematic production design, aerial performance, pyrotechnics, choreographic interventions, site-wide projection and massed musical performance to look at bonds in the community. Another new large-scale event is Space to Fly, a collaboration between Unlimited Theatre and Upswing that will bring together theatre and augmented reality, shining a light on modern human spaceflight and the experiences of women and people of colour who are increasingly our human representatives in space. Pushing the boundaries of what is possible with technology, Air Giants will be working on Unfurl, an interactive and immersive giant robotic forest where each plant will be individually responsive, offering audiences a moment to step into a magical world.

Meanwhile, renowned Birmingham company China Plate are developing Bus Boycott, a brand-new musical with heart pounding politics and soul shaking music, based on the true events of the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott. Look Mum, No Hands! from disabled-led Daryl Beeton Productions and female-led Mimbre is a new piece of physical theatre that combines an original score, with new approaches to choreography. This is a tender story all about friendship and growing up. Olivier Award winning Miss High Leg Kick is known for her unusual approaches to audience engagement and work marked by humour, a love of spectacle and the celebration of the everyday. Eau de Memoire from Miss High Leg Kick is an outdoor promenade for the nose; an olfactory experience that recreates particular moments through smell in a spectacle that combines live performance and audience interaction.

Maggie Clarke, founding member of Without Walls, commented: “Investment in early stage research and development is critically important for the creation of high quality new work in any art form, and never more so than now, when so many artists and venues are looking to present their work in outdoor locations. As we gradually emerge from the Covid lockdown, Without Walls is delighted to be supporting this incredible selection of artists to lay the foundations for the development of some truly ambitious and original new projects, pushing the boundaries of what outdoor art can be. These projects address some of the pressing issues of our time, and will thrill, provoke and entertain audiences across the country over the coming years.”

Without Walls has broken new ground in the development and creation of outdoor arts in the UK. Blueprint is one of many opportunities Without Walls offers alongside other endeavours such as their Green Production Lab, which aims to promote work focussed on environmental sustainability. The Discover Programme also supports artists, partnering those new to the Outdoor sector with leading industry practitioners who provide guidance sessions. Each year, Without Walls also commissions a programme of outdoor work that tours to festivals across the UK. 2021 was their biggest programme to date, supporting 21 new projects spanning genres including dance, theatre, visual art, circus and more.

Since its formation in 2007, Without Walls has developed and toured over 200 new shows by UK companies and supported the Research and Development of 75 projects. Programmes such as Blueprint continued to ensure artists are allowed to innovate and create exciting work specifically designed for the Outdoor sector, an area that remains more important now than ever before as we enter a period of cultural recovery post-pandemic.

Photo credit: Theatre Temoin

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